Thursday, May 26, 2011

New on Blu: "The Comancheros"

John Wayne's entrance in The Comancheros is accompanied by his opening credit--"JOHN WAYNE in," blasted across the screen in big red type, the Duke behind his name, larger than life on horseback in front of a picturesque view of the Utah mountains. That, friends, is how you herald a movie star, and The Comancheros is a top-notch Wayne vehicle--boisterous, energetic, splendidly photographed and vigorously entertaining.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

In Theaters: "The Hangover Part II"

One of the first lines spoken in The Hangover Part II is “It happened again.” The same character proceeds to say, “No, this time we really fucked up!” Later, another character says—hold on, let me check my notes—“I can’t believe this is happening again!” These lines are the comedy sequel equivalent of “I’m gettin’ too old for this shit!” That’s some lazy, lazy writing friends, but it’s right at home in The Hangover Part II, which is one of the more crass motion pictures in recent memory.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

New on Blu: "The Great Dictator"

By the time Charles Chaplin released his first all-talking picture, The Great Dictator, in 1940, he was a good 13 years behind the curve. The most popular of all silent comedians resisted the onset of sound, dismissing it as a fad; his first two post-Jazz Singer comedies, City Lights and Modern Times, only used the soundtrack for music, sound effects, and gibberish. But sound comedy clearly wasn’t going anywhere, so Chaplin finally took the plunge—though he decided that if he was going to talk, he’d better have something to say. Did he ever.

Monday, May 23, 2011

New on Blu: "Papillon"

Dega: “You think it will work?”
Papillon: “Does it matter?”

Franklin J. Schaffner’s Papillon is a gripping, entertaining picture, though it is nearly toppled by the heavy burden of its overworked ambitions. Schaffner, one of the skilled directors of live teleplays during that medium’s “golden age,” was boosted into the front ranks of Hollywood craftsman with the smash success of his 1968 film Planet of the Apes; he had another giant hit—and an Oscar-winning critical success—with 1970’s Patton. Papillon, for all of its virtues (and there are many), often feels like Schaffner is trying (and straining) to top himself. Having reinvented himself as a maker of epics, he makes Papillon one—whether it should be or not.

On DVD: "The Other Woman"

Dear Natalie Portman:

Well, hey, first things first: congrats on that Oscar. It was richly deserved; I mean it, seriously, you were terrific in Black Swan. Plus, makin’ out with Mila Kunis, that had to be pretty awesome, right? I’m imagining? Sorry, you’re probably tired of talking about that. But yeah, kudos on the that.

But that’s not actually why I’m writing you. Frankly, I’m writing because I’m a little concerned about where your career goes next. You see, I saw No Strings Attached, and then I saw your other new release, The Other Woman. I understand why they were released when they were—those distributors were pretty smart, cashing in on all your positive buzz. The reason I’m worried, Natalie (may I call you Natalie?), is that you’re not just the star of these two (let’s be honest) less than stellar motion pictures. You’re also credited as executive producer. This would imply that you had a hand in getting them made, that you saw each of them as positive forward steps in the cultivation of your screen image, that you looked at both projects and said, this is the next move. And that’s very worrisome indeed.